Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Scotland 2009!

On the October bank holiday weekend a group of us headed over to Scotland to see what whitewater it had to offer! DCUCC members Aisling Doherty, Trevor Ebbs, Brian Mc and I joined up with former DCUer Steve Fahy and a group from Wicklow Mountain Kayak Club.

We set of from a very rainy Ireland early on the Friday morning intending to hit the Scottish rivers by sometime in the afternoon. The journey to the ferry was not without incident though with Brian sleeping through his alarm and making the 3 hour journey from his gaff in Wicklow to Belfast in just under 2 hours!

Such pace was not found on the Scottish side of the pond however and much faffing and a few wrong turns lead to us looking at a dirt low Orchy far too late to get on it anyway. We were not comforted much by news that Wicklow and Kerry were pumping in our absence. So we made our way to our bunkhouse to relax in the sauna with some 2% water like liquid which we were dubbed into purchasing by its ridiculously low price tag combined by the label which identified it as beer!

The next morning was we were up bright and early and off to run the Etive! The Etive is one of the most photogenic rivers I have ever seen as well as being one of the most fun to paddle ever! It starts off with the imaginatively named triple step.

Clara Cleaning the Line on the last drop of Triple Step!

It was then on to a further series of fun drops, all imaginatively named, letterbox (keep left unless you want to get "posted"), Crack of Doom (a drop into a small gorge which looks like a crack in the ground, one that you'd want to consider some rescue on :-) ), crack of dawn (quite like crack of doom) and ski jump falls (guess what it looks like?).

Myself doing rescue on Crack of Doom

The river than reaches its biggest and most impressive fall, the 35ft(ish!) Right Angle falls. Unfortunately my line was a little less impressive and I rolled both above and below the drop.

Trev running right angle properly!

Right angle is almost the end of a fantastic river, but there was one more surprise waiting for us where on the last drop Trev decided to ignore the "the lines on the right" signal and ran it left attempting to wear down some Scottish rocks with his elbow. Perhaps unsurprisgly the Rock won (Scottish Rocks 1- Kayakers 0) and we had the first (and only!) DCUCC swim of the trip!

Leaving Trev in the car to recover the rest of us trekked up an Etive tributary called the Allt a' Chaorainn. It's described in the guide book as "more bizarre fun than should be legal!", and it certainly lived up to that promise! It's packed with fun slides and drops. All great fun until Aisling decided to try and revenge Trev's defeat to the rocks by attacking one with her boat. Once again however the rocks proved stronger than expected and it was Rocks 2- Kayakers 0.

Brian Mc running "pinball" on the Allt a' Chaorainn

The next day the rain had finally arrived from Ireland and levels had risen drastically, which meant that we abandoned our plan to run the Roy Gorge and went off to do the An tSuilleag. A great fun little river, with a bit of everything on it. The top rapid was the only difficult one on it which Steve F, Brian Mc and myself ran (relatively!) cleanly. This inspired Jim Ryan of Wicklow Mountain Kayak Club to give it a go, however once again Scottish Rocks proved the downfall of a kayaker making it 3-0 to the rocks and causing a rough looking swim and a lost bung!

Steve Fahy on the top drop of the An tSuilleag

At this point it was decided to split the group with some going of to run the Gary while Brian, Trev, Aisling and I decided to run the Roy, the river we decided not to run earlier. We were not put of running it by the large number of Scottish groups making the rather demanding walk out of the gorge, and put in 3 hours before darkness! The Roy has to be one of the best rivers out there, it was great fun with a few set piece rapids before the gorge, a demanding line through a nasty looking rapid at the start of the gorge (I portaged this one, but kudos to Brian and Trev for running it along with another ex-DCUCC member Alex Stanley who we meet on the river.)And than a great continuous run through the rest of the gorge. We just made it off in time to avoid paddling in the dark but it was a fantastic run a well worth doing again. (Apparently it was a few feet above the level described as "Very High" in the guidebook!) Unfortunately no pictures of this one as we were tight on time. In a side note another bump appeared on Aislings boat, making it presumably rocks 4- Kayakers still nil.

Our last day was Monday, where we set of early to get a paddle in on the Orchy which, had risen since Friday, before we set of for our ferry. The Orchy is another good river (but no Roy, Etive or Allt a' Chaorainn). The main rapid on it was shallow and contained many Scottish rocks. Given our track record it was walked by many, but Steve Fahy, Aisling and Trev gave it a go. They had nice looking lines through it, but the shallow landing took its toll with further marks on Ais and Trev's boats making it 6 to the rocks. Steve appeared to get through fine however so there was a consolation point to the kayakers at the very end!

Aisling boofing on the Orchy

After that it was the long drive home, been miles to early for the ferry (Never thought that would happen) and eventually home to sleep of the weekend!

Me on the Etive

Friday, October 09, 2009

Back in College

I'm back from Uganda a month now and life is back to normal. College started back two weeks ago and this year as a masters student I have depressingly long hours and an enormous amount of project work to be doing.

It also hasn't rained since I got back from Uganda. The odd shower here or there but not one wet day that would bring rivers up, so no paddling for me. Who said it rains a lot in Ireland?

This week was Clubs and Societies days in DCU, where all the clubs and societies go out to try sign up as many new members as they can! This year was very slow, with freshers being very protective of their cash. but we still got loads of new members in both Debate Soc. and in the Canoe Club! So here's to another great year in both!

The first Debate Soc. house debate of the year certainly got of to a good start with a good showing of freshers who produced and excellent and entertaining debate.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Back home

I'm now back home a week and very much missing Africa! I've all my photos up online on my Picasa Web Album. Unfortunately I cant upload the video Chris made for some Techey reason.

The flight home was long and fairly uneventfully, apart from a rather impressive looking thunderstorm while flying over the Sudan. I had 2 seats to myself again, this time one of them being a window seat meaning I had a great view of the thunderstorm.

I'll definitely be back to Africa at some point in the future. Unfortunately it probably wont be to Uganda, at least not to Kayak as with out the Silverback run which will be lost to the dam it just wont be worth it to me. Maybe the Zambezi for next year!

Rhino in the conservation park!


Buffalo at Murchison Falls NP

One of the Local Kids carrying a boat up from Superhole

Kids who came out to see the Mazugus who st oped outside their house

This Guy borrowed my boat at the bottom of silverback, despite been way too small and using my paddles upside down he was actually quite a good little paddler!

Myself at Superhole

Hugh going big on Nile Special

Myself at Buj, Despite the sign we ran this many times :)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Leaving Day

Today is my last day in Uganda. The time here has relay flew. The last few days have been particularly hectic. Yesterday I had intended to do a few Silverback runs to get some final video footage, particularly of the back channels which we had no footage of. Unfortunately for us we only found out at about 11 that the Dam builders were intending on blasting and we could not paddle after 12 so we just had time to do a normal Silverback run with no video. It felt strange to paddle it for the very last time. It's the best section of river I've ever paddled and with the dam being built I'll never get to paddle it again.

Unfortunately there has been a few problems in Kampala over the last few days with Rioting and roads being blocked. A tribal King was denied access to some part of the country that hes not supposed to go to and an entire tribe took offense. Several people were unable to get to the airport over the last few days so this morning I had to leave early in order to get here before expected rioting started again in Kampala. We passed a few burnt out buses and trucks and the police and army were out in force, but we encountered no problems so I arrived at Enttebe airport, where I am now, with many hours to spare.

I'll be back in Ireland tomorrow so I'll have photos and the video Chris made up soon.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Last week in Uganda

This week will be my last in Uganda, time has passed by so quickly here it doesn't feel like I've been here anywhere near that long.

Since I've come back from the lemon, I've been paddling on the day one section again. mainly Silverback runs with some Superhole sessions and back channels too. Silverback seems much more manageable now than it used to. Its taken a while but now I seem to be able to run all of the rapids clean most of the time, whereas when I first came out any rapid that I didn't roll on became a major achievement.

We've also done plenty of filming. Chris Fischer, who's doing a motorbike tour of Africa is filming plenty of stuff we're doing so we should have a decent video sometime this week. I've taken plenty of pictures with my own camera too. It's good for easy point and shoot pictures, but it generally fails with taking pictures of big rapids as there is too much movement and colours for such a small camera. The zoom isn't great also. I definitely miss using an SLR, I could get much better pictures with one. It was also a loss when on safari when animals were some distance away and I just couldn't get good photos with my little camera.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Murchison Falls Safari

I was also on Safari in the last week. Myself and Tim and Huw from Southampton took three days off to go to Murchison Falls. The Falls themselves are a sight. The whole river Nile slots through a drop about 6 meters wide which makes it the most powerful waterfall in the world. I've got plenty of pictures, but I dont think they come close to catching the power in the water.

We also went on a game drive and a river cruise where we got to see elephants, giraffes, hippos, wildebeest, many types of antelope, even more types of birds, crocodiles and Lions. We than visited a rhino sanctuary where they are raising a heard of rhinos in order to reintroduce them to the park as they became extinct in Uganda during the rule of Idi Amin.

The Safari may have taken 3 days but it was definitely a worthwhile break from paddling. I'm back in Bujagali now and staying at the Eden Rock campsite. Planing on doing plenty of Silverback runs with the camera to get pictures and videos. It's hard to believe that I have less than 2 weeks of my month stay left. The time has flown by.

The Hairy Lemon

I've spent the last week between the Hairy Lemon and a Safari at Murchison Falls National Park. Both were absolutely fantastic.

The Hairy Lemon is a campsite at the end of the day 2 section. Its a fantastic chilled out place to stay. It's in the middle of nowhere, so all there is to do is chill out and go paddling. The day 2 section has some big play waves. I got to session Club Wave and Nile Special which are only a 10 minute paddle from the campsite and also the Mutts Nuts wave which is a much lesser known, but equally good wave on the Hair of the Dog rapid.

Club wave was my personal favorite as I'm not much of a playboater so the fact it was easy to get on made a big difference when most of the time all I'd get was a fount surf before getting wiped out. Mutts Nuts is hard to get on as its a tricky ferry glide and the wave is liable to green out completely at any time, normally just before I was about to surf it. Even Finn and Hugh who are fantastic playboaters struggled to catch it at times.

Nile Special is probably the best wave here but it takes a long time to master the rope needed to get onto it. I managed a few surfs towards the end of my sessions but that was all I could do on it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Living in Uganda

At the moment I'm staying in the NRE campsite by Bujagali falls. It's pretty cool here. It's right at the start of the Silverback run so is a perfect spot to stay. there's a bar on site which sometimes has a great atmosphere. There's about 10 kayakers between here and the Eden Rock campsite across the road. I should move over as it's cheaper and quieter but it seems like a lot of effort.

The crowd at NRE changes all the time. Truck loads of tourists traveling Africa arrive for a for a few days at a time and the weekends are also busy with volunteers who have some time off. They are all here to raft so the night usually kicks of after the video of that days rafting which is shown at 9.

The rainy season has well and truly arrived too. It rains torrentialy almost every afternoon (today being a nice exception). Yesterday brought the heaviest rain I have ever seen. Bucket loads of water came down. There was a river of water flowing through the bar where it was only raining heavily as compared to the sheets of water falling outside. The river, which is only about 200m from the bar was completely out of sight. After it passed it transpired that the rain had brought down most of the tents in the campsite. Luckily mine was one of the few that escaped.

The rain also has an effect on paddling. The Boda-Bodas wont operate in the rain so we have to try time our Silverback runs to avoid the daily deluge. A Boda-Boda is a 50cc scooter which are fairly common out here as taxis. We get them to meat us at the get out bellow Silverback and we load ourselves plus our boats and gear on to get the 20 minute ride back to the campsite.

As for paddling I've spent the last few days paddling with some English lads plus a guy from NUIG on the Silverback section. Today I did my first back chanel, blade runner and also managed a dry head line down the Silverback rapid. (Still haven't manged to clean the second hole on the Bujagali left line though). We'll spend another day or two here and next week I'll probably head to the Hairy Lemon with the English guys. The Hairy Lemon is another campsite at the bottom of the day 2 section and is right beside Nile Special and the Club wave which are big playwaves. Myself and 2 paddlers from Southampton Uni may also take a few days out for a Safari next week too.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Finally got to paddle on the day 1 section today. We did two runs from our campsite down to Silverback. It's a great run. Theres a few rapids after silverback but also a lot more flatwater so they were left to another day.

My runs were far from Stylish and unlike the day 2 section, were I only had to roll once, I rolled on most the rapids here.

The first rapid on the run is a choice between either Ribcage or The Hump neither is particularly hard but both are good fun. After that is Bujagali falls. There are several lines but I oped to run the left one both times. The left line is basically two drops with a flattish section in between. On the first run I realised that the the flat section was actually quite pushy and ended up ferrying hard just to make the line having been pushed into the centre which is nasty and rocky looking. I landed just at the edge or the normal line and got flipped by the hole. The second time was much better but the second hole still got the better of me despite being on line.

50-50 is the next major rapid. The curx of it is a diagonal wave which is fairly big. It flipped me on both occasions. The second one I was sure it had popped my deck due to difficulty of rolling, but it appears that I timed my rolls perfectly with the waves on the wave train which were pushing me straight back in. The final (and biggest) rapid on the run is silverback, there's a massive ramp where the river narrows and feeds into a wave train. The waves are huge and surging and a clean line requires an element of luck for anyone. my first run I got eaten by the 3rd wave while in my second run it was the 4th wave that ate me after I dared to roll up when wave number 2 had already flipped me.

It's a great section of river, I still have to do Overtime and Chopasuai which are further downstream as well as any of the back channels. Hopefully over the next few days I'll get to try them as well as make some cleaner lines on the main rapids.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rest Days

Unfortunately my old shoulder injury made a reappearance on Bujagali Falls (the first real rapid on the run) on my first run down the day 1 section, so I have had a few days rest hoping that it will go away. Its still a bit stiff but hopefully I can go again tomorrow. I've spent plenty of time in the eddy practicing rolling on my left as rolling on my right (which I normally do) seems to be whats most likely to aggravate it.

That has meant that I've had plenty of free time. I've spent plenty of that chilling out on the campsite, but I've also taken some time to explore the local area. One day I rented a bike and one of the local raft guides on his day of brought me around the locality. It's definitely worth giving up a day for. It's the start of the rainy season here so everyone is out working getting the fields ready for planting. We passed through little villages, fields and schools. Everywhere the people are so friendly, particularly the children. When ever they saw me they'd come running shouting "Mzunda" which means "white man", they all what to shake your hand so if I was to stop for all of them I'd never get anywhere! most of them were delighted with a wave back though.

Today I went into Jinja on a Boda, a 50cc scooter taxi with two lads from Southampton Uni canoe club. We wandered around the town for the few hours, enjoying the market and some local foods.

Hopefully though I can shortly go back paddling, as nice as the area is I did come here to kayak. I've been down to Sliverback and I cant wait to run it. That said I'm not planing on taking too many risks as I still have over 3 weeks left here and If I seriously injure it I may not get too much paddling at all.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

First days paddling in Uganda

Paddling in Uganda is every bit as good as I’ve ever been told, and I haven’t even done the best bit yet!

I signed up to Kayak the Nile’s 3 day introduction to the river as I didn’t know anyone here, as it turns out it was probably unnecessary as it didn’t take long to find other paddlers anyway. That said I don’t mind having gone on the intro trip as the volume here is unlike anything else I’ve paddled and the waves are huge.

It turned out the night I arrived was a once of and every night has been buzzing since than. A large group of rafters arrived early in the morning.

On my first day here we did a fairly flattish section from the Owen Falls dam down to the campsite. In the afternoon I went to Super Hole. Super Hole is an amazing playspot, it’s incredibly friendly and all moves are possible there, as was demonstrated by Ibrim, our guide who will be representing Uganda at the World Freestyle Championships in Switzerland in a few weeks time.

Yesterday we paddled the day two section which is great fun and has some huge waves and holes, that said the lines are easy to spot and paddle. Day two finishes up at the Hairy Lemmon which is beside the Nile Special wave. Its insanely big, I gave it a miss yesterday as I could only really see one outcome to me attempting to surf it but I’ll definitely be heading back to try and surf it over the next few weeks once I’ve a bit more practice in big volume rapids.

Next up will be the Day 1 section which includes most of the rivers biggest rapids.
Paddling in Uganda is every bit as good as I’ve ever been told, and I haven’t even done the best bit yet!

Geting to Uganda

Getting to Uganda was a bit of an experience. I had to fly from Dublin to Gatwick, Gatwick to Brussels and Brussels to Uganda. My Uncle gave me and my gear a lift to the airport which certainly saved me a lot of hassle, so many thanks to Frank!

In Dublin I finally managed to get a camera, so now I am the proud owner of a waterproof Pentex W60. I’ve got some decent shots already, but the internet here is pretty crapy so I won’t be able to upload any till I get home.

I had to stay overnight in Gatwick as my flight from Gatwick left very early in the morning. Trying to sleep in Gatwick is not something I’d recommend to anyone I could only find one spare bench which was right beside the main entrance. I was disturbed several times, once by a guy wanting to sell me a net for my kayak, and 3 times by a drunken guy looking for money. Eventually I got to check in and I brought my boat over to the oversized baggage. However the guy operating it spoke only two words of English, “too big” and wouldn’t let me put it on. Even when I found his (thankfully English speaking) manager he didn’t want to put it in. Eventually when he was talked around it and rather unsurprisingly it did actually fit.

When we got to Brussels we were taken of the plane and put on a bus directly over to the long-haul plane for the flight to Africa. It went via Kigali (in Rwanda) which meant that the flight took over 10 hours. I also got to see a passenger board the plane in Kigali with a large, very authentic looking spear!

When I finally got to Entebbe I was meet by Robert the driver who would bring me to the NRE campsite. Driving in Uganda is an experience. Road markings are generally ignored. The roads were crowded with pedestrians, most of whom walked right down the middle with no lighting at all. Going through Kampala while on a dual carriageway we were met by even more pedestrians and Kids playing in the middle. My driver never turned of his headlights, so we spent the entire trip been flashed at. Indicators seem like a luxury item here, so if you have them you show them of by putting them on all the time.

After 30 hours of traveling I got to the NRE campsite at 1AM, despite what I’d been told about the bar been open to all hours the place was dead so I went to one of the bunk houses as it was far to late to put up a tent.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

All ready to go

I'm now packed for Uganda. Unfortunately without either a credit card or the new waterproof camera I had ordered. AIB managed to extend the 10-15 day process of getting a credit card to over 40 by being generally incompetent. Fortunately I was only getting it for back up so I'll still have money over there.

As for the camera, I had it ordered of Pixmania and due for delivery before August 1st (plenty of time one would think) but when it didn't arrive I checked their website only to find that they had prosponed delivery till September 1st and hadn't seen fit to notify me. So I went on to contact my aunt in the Chanel Islands (no VAT) and she got me one and registered posted it to Ireland. But Royal Mail/An Post conspired against me to loose it somehow.

Fortunately I have managed to acquire a playboat, an Blue ZG54. It's in great condition and I've brought it out to Sluice in Lucan for the last two days. It surfs far better than any other boat I've tried and feels much more balanced than other playboats. I cant wait to use it on big water.

All packed up

Monday, August 10, 2009

Newcastle Euros 2009

Last week David and myself took part in the EUDC 2009 hosted by Newcastle University. We also had Declan in tow as officially the first Hungarian Judging representative at euros.

We had an very early flight leaving Dublin which meant that we were in the student accommodation provided by Newcastle by 9.30 in the morning leaving us with a day in Newcastle. We went for a walk around Newcastle. It's a city with very much a sense of former grandeur. We also managed to get a visit to St. James Park, the day after Sir Bobby Robson died. Literally thousands of fans had gathered in and around the stadium, and the shear amount of memorials left and the cost of getting the latest jersey with "Sir Bobby" on it, only to leave it in the stadium is an indicator to how much this city loves their football.

Bobby Robson Memorial at St. James Park
Day 2 was the starting of the rounds. There was a major delay at the start due to registration problems which lead to one of the four scheduled rounds been cut. It was a good day for the Irish with several teams on 7 or more points after 3 rounds (so from a maximum of 9). It wasn't so good for myself and David though. We started with a solid second but in the second round we messed up big time and took a deserved last. The 3rd round we felt we did well in but we were given the worst adjudication that I have ever seen and ended up taking only a 3rd which left us on a rather poor 3 points after 3 rounds.

The Newcastle Authorities were unsure as to who was to use this gate

Day 3 was much better. We bounced back from the previous days disappointments with 3 straight wins which put us right up where we wanted to be and in with a solid chance of making it into the quarter finals. Our last preliminary round debate brought us up against some good teams including Cambridge and Tel Aviv. Unfortunately we were unable to take the win in what was a tight debate and it was the Cambridge and Tel Aviv teams who mad it through to the knock out stages. A number of Irish teams did make it through, 3 from UCD and one from UCC.

The last Irish team was knocked out in the Semis (Susan and Jeramey from UCD) and all Irish support went to the team from Tel Aviv who were the only non-Oxford team in the final. In the end it was Oxford's A team who won (for the forth international tournament in a row).

It wasn't to hard to figure out which team the Irish were supporting in the final
An early flight the next morning didn't curtail the party that night and it was a particularly tiered looking Irish contingent on the 7.50 flight the next morning.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

French Alps

This year myself, Steve Fahy and Steve Quinn headed over to France for a week of kayaking fun. Over there we meat up with Aisling, Trevor and Phil who were already half way through a month long trip around the alps.

We headed for the region around Briancon, which has an huge amount of great rivers within a short distance. We camped at L'Argentière-la-Bessée slalom site which is ideally located for paddling.

Briancon old town gate

In the first few days we got runs of the Briancon Gorge, the Upper Claree and the Lower Guisine. All fantastic rivers at great levels.

Fantastic Scenery on the Briancon Gorge
Guidebook cover photo of Steve Fahy on the Upper Claree

The levels in France were still high though and we were reminded of it when we spotted a almost totally river wide fallen tree far to late on the Gyr, luckily it wasn't too difficult to avoid. The Guil was pumping all week too, making most sections of it far to high for most sane paddlers! Steve Quinn, Aisling, Trev and Phil got a run on of the lower part of the Middle Guil (from X-Box down) though. It was huge volume and continuous and with the standing waves been compared to those in Uganda by the guys at the get out combined with the undercuts, I'm not entirely upset by the fact I missed out on this one

Phil's a dot on the Middle Giul.

Due to the high levels, (and us being lazy) we didn't get the preplanned 2-3 rivers a day done over the week, but we had a much more relaxing holiday for it, with Via Ferrata, eating Americans by the Flesh Pit, cursing the gauge at the Durance Gorge and admiring our rented Citron C5 with tons of gadgets among our many other activities.

The Lads enjoying Americans (A roll with chips and burgers in it rather than people from the USA)

Quiner got angry with the Lady at the car rental desk so we got upgraded from our C2 that we paid for to a rather spacious automatic C5, which Quiner promptly ruined by doing 4 wheel drifts in mountain passes

Aisling Via Ferata

Myself on the Upper Claree